Opening a business is even harder during a pandemic. These two shop owners in Lindenwald did it anyway
In this final installment of our community storytelling initiative Round the Corner in Lindenwald, WVXU's Tana Weingartner profiles two small business owners who decided to strike out and make a go of things during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was the start of the pandemic in 2020, Ashley Neal was living in Hamilton, having moved back after years away to care for her grandmother. But now her granny had passed on and a family member told her either start paying the rent or get out.
"I was supposed to go to barber school, but barber school got closed down (because of the pandemic), and I knew I was good at detailing, so I just started detailing out of my garage, pregnant and all," she explains while taking a break from vacuuming a black SUV.
"I was doing like two or three details a day, every single day, to try to open up the shop."
Little by little, she managed to save up enough money to open Details Matter in June 2020 in an old car wash her family used to run.
"I've worked here since I was 12," she explains. "This is where my granny that passed away ... she's actually the one that taught me how to detail, and it all started here. It just feels like she always wanted me to have the shop. I've reached every goal that she always wanted me to do when she passed away."
Neal says it feels amazing knowing her granny would be proud.
It wasn't easy though. Neal worked long hours, scrimping and saving enough just to buy the materials she'd need every day.
She had to close down for a while after getting into a bad relationship. She holds her head up as she says she's a survivor of domestic abuse.
"I could've given up," she says, but she didn't. She worked even harder.
It's something Neal says she learned from the strong women leaders in her family.
"It was a really big decision to open back up because I was kind of scared ... and there's just a lot of pressure on me right now. But, I did it, I opened back up, and now I'm happy."
A few blocks away on Pleasant Avenue next to the old Sweden Creme, you'll find Perfectly Blended Barber Shop and owner David Smith. He opened up last June.
"I was at work and a buddy drove by here and told me that this place was for lease. I ended up getting the phone number, calling the guy up, and came down here to talk to him to see if it was feasible or what the situation was," Smith recalls. "Within about 20 minutes of being down here, I'd signed the lease and I was a shop owner."
He renovated the old barber shop, doing nearly all the work himself.
He hadn't really set out to own his own business, he says. He remembers biking past the shop as a kid and getting ice cream at Sweden Creme next door. He calls the whole situation surreal.
Some clients followed him to the new place, others just drive or walk by and decide to stop in. There are also those who have been coming to the barber shops at this location for decades.
"We hear the stories that their dad used to bring them here or they came here as a kid... I've been really accepted by the community as a whole, as far as it goes," says Smith. "I'm a really big fan of Lindenwald, it's definitely still got that small community feel. It's not as busy as, per se, downtown on the High Street/Main Street corridor, but it's been really good. I can't complain one bit."
While Smith talks, customer Nicholas Clark shows up. He found Smith through his wife who goes to the salon where Smith worked before opening his own place in Lindenwald.
"I don't go to anybody else," Clark states. "From initial contact, it was just a connection between the barber and the client. He's easy to talk to — it's more of an experience rather than just a haircut. He takes his time and he actually talks to you. I would almost equate it to like a therapy session, we spend the hour in nonstop conversation."
Clark says it's important for him to spend his money with local, hard working folks.
"He has a passion for his craft. It's not just a job; this is his passion."
Two shop owners in Lindenwald: both opened during the pandemic; both determined to make it; both passionate about what they do.